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Europe & Russia

UK spent over $3.3m on assistance to Saudi military over 4 years, MP reveals

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The United Kingdom has spent over £2.4 million ($3.27 million) over the past four years to assist Saudi Arabia’s military in accordance with international humanitarian law, it has been revealed in a session of parliamentary questions.

It was reported yesterday that in December, the Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Martyn Day requested information on Britain’s assistance to the Saudi military, to which Minister of Defence James Heappey revealed a letter showing that London had spent a total of £2.4 million for that project since 2016.

That revelation came two months after the Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly stated that the UK was funding a programme in which British troops train Saudi Arabia’s armed forces to ensure their “compliance with international humanitarian law.”

Back then, Cleverly stated that Britain is helping the kingdom to “protect its national security” and assured that through its Gulf Strategy Fund, “we are having a significant positive impact on human rights in the region.”

This was the first time the UK detailed the extent of its funding of Saudi Arabia, which included £550,000 ($751,167) in 2019-2020 alone.

READ: Britain is two-faced over Saudi Arabia

London’s assistance to Riyadh regarding humanitarian warfare and standards comes amid concerns over Saudi Arabia’s ongoing nearly six-year war in Yemen, in which numerous strikes on civilians and non-military targets have been documented. It is estimated that 8,750 civilians have been killed in Saudi air strikes on Yemen, and a humanitarian crisis has swept throughout the country due to the conflict between the kingdom and the Iran-backed Houthis.

Britain has also been found to be complicit in that conflict, with the government having signed numerous arms deals and sales to Saudi Arabia over the past four years, making it the second largest supplier of arms to the kingdom. Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself, when he was the foreign secretary, approved the sale of Paveway guided missiles in August 2016, only days after 14 civilians were killed in an air strike on a potato factory in Yemen.

The Gulf Strategy Fund, which was previously secret and named as the Integrated Activity Fund, is a programme run by the British government which supports the six Gulf Arab states and is part of the nation’s foreign policy towards them. It was previously allocated an annual budget of £20 million ($27.3 million), but that amount was cut down to £8.4 million ($11.5 million) last year due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

According to the Guardian, the Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei said: “It is deeply disturbing that the UK government is spending taxpayers’ money bolstering the Saudi’s military capacity.”

READ: Britain selling arms to Saudi Arabia at unprecedented rate

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Africa

Turkey helps Libya in diffusing explosives, bombs

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Turkish experts continue to help Libya in diffusing and removal of explosives and bombs, Anadolu reports.

According to a statement by the Turkish National Defense Ministry, Turkish Air Forces’ Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams continue their work in Libya as part of military training and cooperation arrangements between the two countries.

The EOD teams ensure the safety of Libyans, the press release said.

The North African country has been torn by a civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The rival sides – the UN-recognized Government of National Accord and warlord Khalifa Haftar – reached a countrywide permanent cease-fire last October. International efforts for a permanent political settlement, however, are still underway.

Turkish Armed Forces have also been training Libya’s navy and army.

Turkey’s investment in Libya: Enka cooperates with Siemens to build power stations

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Europe & Russia

Ukraine to ban flights by Russian, Syrian airlines that serve Crimea

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Ukraine will ban flights over its territory by 13 Russian regional air carriers and Syrian Cham Wings Airlines for three years, the government said on Wednesday, citing flights by them into and out of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, Reuters reports.

A draft resolution approved by the cabinet prohibits “the transit of resources, flights and transportation” by the 14 airlines. It must be approved by Ukraine’s council of national security, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to become effective.

“Air carriers of the Russian Federation systematically violate the procedure for using the airspace of Ukraine,” the government said in a statement.

“Violations consist of flights within the prohibited zone over the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.”

Hundreds of Russian entities, businessmen and politicians have been sanctioned by Kyiv since Ukraine’s giant neighbour annexed the Crimean peninsula.

Bigger Russian airlines, including national flag carrier Aeroflot and Transaero, have been forbidden to enter Ukrainian airspace since 2015.

Ukraine has also accused Russia of sending arms and troops to help pro-Moscow separatists fighting its soldiers in the east of the country, in a conflict which has killed nearly 14,000 people since April 2014. Russia denies involvement.

READ: Ukraine demands all details from Tehran about downed plane

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Asia & Americas

Ex-US envoy: US should seek Turkey’s help against Daesh in Syria

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The US should seek Turkey’s help to defeat Daesh in Syria, former US envoy to Damascus Robert Ford wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine.

In the article, Ford said Ankara has “clear incentives to cooperate” as Daesh has also launched terror attacks inside Turkey.

Joe Biden’s administration must withdraw US soldiers from Syria and rely on Turkey and Russia to contain Daesh there, but cooperation will be easier once Washington is no longer directly assisting the Kurdish parties in Syria, he added.

He criticised the US’ Syria policy saying: “American actions to compel political concessions from [Syrian President] Assad and stop his attacks on Syrian civilians also harm Syrian civilians and complicate the fight against Daesh.”

Turkey is trying to defeat terrorist organisations in Syria and in Turkey, he continued.

Last week, at least eight foreigners were arrested in central Turkey over their suspected links to outlawed Kurdish and Daesh terror groups.

READ: After 20 operations, Syrian mother sees her sons again

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